Wars at Home

Max Boyd disappeared on June 8, 1970.

Thoughts of Max’s disappearance weren’t the only thing keeping me awake, though. Everything was different lately, and I didn’t like it.

My best friend, Scott, was acting all goofy. He didn’t seem to want me around anymore. He’s even stopped coming over. We haven’t ridden bikes together in over a week, and he never lets me know when there is a pick-up game of baseball or basketball starting up.

If that wasn’t strange enough, I caught a glimpse of Mr. Boyd, Max’s dad, going into the woods the other day. When was the last time anybody actually saw Mr. or Mrs. Boyd?

If it would have been anybody else, I would have followed. It was Mr. Boyd, though, so I didn’t dare. When I rode by their house yesterday, their grass looked like ours- too long according to Mom. The Boyd’s were known throughout the neighborhood for how nice they kept their yard. They never left anything lying around that would destroy their perfect landscape. So why was there was a ladder left laying in the front yard? Mom had to remind me constantly to clean up after myself, inside and outside.

“If you were the one who dragged the stuff out, it was your responsibility to clean it up,” She’d always say.

What was going on? I had no answers, especially not at 3:03 in the morning.

I tossed and turned for the next four hours. No use lying here any longer. I changed into my favorite jeans, which were still on the floor from yesterday, ate a bowl of cereal, and headed out on my bike.

Even though there was never much traffic on our country road, mom constantly reminded me to watch for cars. As I coasted down a hill under trees which lined both sides of the street, the early morning air blew into my face and chest sending a shiver from my shoulders to my waist.

My front tire slid across the concrete with a screech when I stopped beside an acre of pine trees which separated the Boyd’s house from a lane leading into the woods.
What was this? Why was the door to the Boyd’s garage suddenly open? It had been locked up tight since the day Max went missing two years ago. So who unlocked it on the anniversary of his disappearance?

Max’s 1956 black Chevy Corvette car and his Harley Davidson sat inside. The sun’s reflection made the car look as shiny as I remembered it. Max would be proud.

Not a single car passed me as I wracked my brain to try to figure out what was going on. When nothing came to me, I headed down the lane. Nestled in the middle of the woods at the lane’s end stood the old, abandoned house. I laid my bike in the gravel, afraid that snakes might be hiding in the weeds of what used to be the front yard, and plopped down on the front porch. I rested my head against one of the rickety posts, hoping it was sturdy enough to keep the sagging porch roof from crashing down on top of me, and stared into the woods. That song“ Bridge Over Troubled Water”played over and over in my mind today. I couldn’t figure out why because I hadn’t heard it on the radio lately. Then it came to me, Max played that song on that summer afternoon, exactly two years ago today; the day I saw Max for the last time.

Chapter 2

Max was the coolest guy I knew. I felt grown up around him. We were the only ones in the neighborhood that didn’t have at least one brother or sister. He kept pretty much to himself except for when he and his best friend Elmer Yost rode around town together on their motorcycles.

I thought about the time when Max and Elmer were riding past the lane just as I wiped out on my bike, skinning up my knees pretty bad. Max stopped when he saw me and told me how brave I was for not crying. I wouldn’t let myself cry in front of him. He took off his bandana and wiped away the blood that was running down my legs. Then we walked; well,I limped, over to his house where he put some mercurochrome right on both of my skinned up knees, warning that it would sting like mad. It did!

Then there was the time I brought home straight A’s on my report card for the first time. When I showed my mom, her face lit up and she told me she would bake me something special. As excited as that made me, there was someone else I had to tell, so I ran for my bike.

Max was standing in the middle of the driveway between his black convertible sport car and his Harley Davidson. He kept staring at the hose as water filled the bucket until it overflowed. I yelled at him from the road at the foot of his driveway. He finally turned off the nozzle and walked slowly toward me. Something was up. His head was down and his shoulders were hunched over. Max always had perfect posture. Mom reminded me constantly to stand up straight like Max Boyd which I actually didn’t mind because I wanted to be just like Max. When he got closer, I saw that he was twisting a rag tighter and tighter around his hands until they were so red they looked like they would bleed.

When I held out my report card, he loosened the rag, stuffed one end of it in the back pocket of his jeans, and took it from me. Then, without a word, he walked away with it in his hands. What should I do? I couldn’t go after him. Although nobody ever said it straight out, us kids all knew that the Boyd’s property is off limits.

6 thoughts on “Wars at Home

  1. Marlene Wilson Bierworth says:

    Chapter 1 introduces a lot of strange things happening. That’s good but at times it reads disjointed. A lot of fragmented telling instead of walking with the narrator while he discovers these things within an active scene. Who is “me”? You mention many characters as they relate to your narrator but I feel like I don’t know who’s doing the talking. You also ask questions that the reader doesn’t care about because we don’t know your many characters yet. Maybe there are too many, especially at the beginning of a book.
    In chapter 2 there is a lot of backstory that I’m not too sure kids would have patience for. Do you think you could show the relationship with Max by actually going back in time and playing the scene for real? Just a thought.
    I think you are ramping up for a good story. There is some intrigue but maybe work on showing more than telling, creating a strong protagonist and linking some of the fragmented events that are mentioned.
    Best of luck. Young people are a hard audience to write and a worthy challenge.

  2. Ray says:

    So far I’m enjoying this. There’s enough going on to peek my interest but not so much that it gets muddy. As with all crits, here’s the disclaimer…if any of my observations help, great…if you disagree, feel free to ignore me. 🙂 So, here we go.

    I would lose the last sentence in paragraph 5 (Mom had to remind…) and all paragraph 6…we don’t need to know this. So we are in 1972…I’m old enough to remember that, and digital clocks were available but rare…especially in a kid’s room. Having said that, I’d nuke the 3:03 and go with a rounded off time. I know that’s nit picky, but that’s how my brain works…lol.

    Next I would cut the paragraph starting with, “Even though there was never much traffic…”. The writing is fine, but I don’t think it moves the story forward. “Max’s 1956 black Chevy Corvette car…” nuke “Chevy” and “car”. Maybe the next sentence works if it’s early enough in the morning and the garage faces east, but my first reaction was, how’s the sun reflecting on a car in a garage? I would also nuke, “Not a single car passed me as” to keep things moving.

    For my taste I would change “When nothing came to me, I headed down the lane.” to “Nothing came to me. I headed…” In my brain it reads a bit faster.

    I agree with Marlene that there’s an issue with Chapter 2…going back and remembering is a tough one in adult fiction, for middle graders even a small info dump is challenging to pull off. Do we need to know about Elmer or is he a throwaway character? I understand we need to cement his relationship with Max, but maybe sprinkling these in one at a time as the story progresses would work better. One last nit pick….” between his black convertible sport car and his Harley Davidson.” Since we already know about his car, you can just say, “between his vette and his Harley.”

    • gbmeek says:

      Thanks very much! I appreciate your advice on the technicalities and on ways to keep the story moving! I’d be happy to read your if you would like.

  3. suzanna says:

    I was really intrigued by the story and wanted to know what had happened to Max Boyd.
    Here are some thoughts I had. Feel free to disregard 🙂

    The date, 1970, confused things a bit. It’s a long way from 2017 so I thought the disappearance was many years ago, but then a bit further on it says it was almost exactly two years ago. Unless the story needs to be set in the 70’s maybe it would have been better to have put the ‘two years ago’ line at the beginning instead. That way the story isn’t dated at all.

    I was also a bit unsure as to the age of the characters. The early paragraphs made the protagonist seem young and I assumed Max was young too but then later on he’s driving. Maybe you could make it a bit clearer from the start.

    ‘Bridge over Troubled Waters’ is probably not a song most middle graders would associate with.

    Wasn’t sure whether the ladder was in the protagonists garden, or Max’s. Not sure you needed the bit about his mum telling him to clean up after himself.

    Chapter 2 was a lot of back-story when I really wanted to know more about Mr Boyd going into the woods, why his friend Scott not wanting to hang out with him anymore and what was going to happen at the abandoned house. Could you find a way to weave his memories into the story whilst keeping it moving forward?

    I was intrigued by the idea of someone disappearing and you certainly have a lot of unusual events in these first few pages. You have the makings of an interesting story. Keep going 🙂

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